Nancy Tutunjian Brings Song and Faith to Community

1
0

By Tom Vartabedian

WATERTOWN, Mass. — When she isn’t singing, she’s acting, composing a song or perhaps standing before a church group and delivering one of her motivational talks.

Nancy Tutunjian Berger is a Renaissance woman and what she does best depends upon the day or the venue.

You won’t find her name in lights on Broadway but check out community circles and you’re apt to find her as a headline performer.

This spring, she stole the show as Golde in the Wellesley Players’ presentation of “Fiddler on the Roof,” staged at Babson College. It was a performance that gained rave reviews.

Nothing new for Tutunjian, considering that she has appeared in numerous shows over her 30-year career, produced five recordings, appeared at Lincoln Center in New York City and just got done headlining a jazz night at First Armenian Church in Belmont, where each Sunday she is a choir soloist.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

Over the past three years, she has served as a guest speaker at conferences, retreats, workshops and other special events, bringing a Christian message to her audience.  A July engagement will find Tutunjian at the Alton Bay Conference Center in New Hampshire, where she will both sing and hold talks.

Juggling all these balls is nothing new for the skillful artist and she manages to keep them all in motion. So what’s the motive behind the mission? Her heritage.

“It gets an Armenian name into the public and in some cases that is someone’s first awareness of who we are,” she said. “It gives us a presence and allows us to show our ingenuity and creative reservoirs. The Armenian people have a rich legacy of art and culture. I feel honored at perpetuating that legacy in some small way since my high school days.”

Nancy Tutunjian Berger has built up quite the resume over the years as a singer, composer, stage actress and speaker.

Tutunjian is no neophyte when it comes to the Armenian community. For many years, she sang solo with conductor Rouben Gregorian in the Komitas Choral Society. It was like a master class for the singer, who noticed something brilliant in his student.

“Rouben’s interest in my career was indispensable,” Tutunjian reflected. “He taught me to read and conduct music. He also arranged many opportunities for me to sing in several classical venues. Baron Rouben wanted me to become an opera singer but I wanted to lean elsewhere and ventured into jazz-cabaret, a life of theater and more explicitly, my composing and recording. I could not have written songs without the knowledge Baron Rouben imparted upon me.”

Of the five discs, three represent her own original contemporary Christian songs. One is a Christmas CD while another is filled with lush Armenian folk and popular songs, done in collaboration with Gregorian in 1989 shortly before his death. In the works is a recording of American Songbook standards.

Her voice is a natural fit for jazz and cabaret styles. She grew up listening to the sounds of Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn.

Ironically, Tutunjian’s first community theater role was with the Wellesley Players back in 1982 as Marsinah in “Kismet.” This was her second “Fiddler” production, having played daughter Hodel several years ago while in college.

Other credits include Dot in “Sunday in the Park With George,” Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods,” Lili in “Carnival,” Agnes in “Agnes of God,” Mabel in “Pirates of Penzance,” Sister Sarah in “Guys and Dolls,” and Dolly Levi in “Hello Dolly.”

“When I auditioned in college for ‘Fiddler,’ I wanted to play Golde and was disappointed to be cast as Hodel,” said Tutunjian reflectively. “This time, nearly 30 years later, I was wistfully watching the younger girls and thinking I could play that role again. But Golde was an exhilarating experience. Many people commented on how real my interpretation was.”

Born, raised and educated in Watertown, Tutunjian resides here with Richard Berber, her husband of 11 years.

She holds an associate’s degree in business from Massachusetts Bay Community College.

Over the years, she has worked as a bank secretary, hospital unit coordinator, phlebotomist, medical assistant and now, part-time inside the bursar’s office at Northeastern University which allows her time to pursue her musical career.

“According to my mom (Ann), I was singing before I could talk and could hold a melody with her,” she notes. “Whatever voice or music talent I have is God-given and I try to be a responsible steward of it. My husband is my biggest cheerleader and accompanies me to most of my gigs. He’s also a very good sound technician.”

A born-again Christian, Tutunjian gathered some folks from First Armenian Church and began jazz cabaret nights for charity. The Benevolence Committee sponsors 12 children in Armenia and the Middle East through the Armenian-American Missionary Association. They receive food, clothing, school supplies and other necessities.

Among fellow performers at the church is jazz guitarist John Baboian. It’s been four years and the group raises between $600-$1,000 annually for the church.

“What makes Nancy special is that while she’s the consummate performer, she is more obvious your sister in Christ,” praised First Armenian pastor, Rev. Gregory Haroutunian. “She gives the Holy Spirit the freedom to guide and inspire her, beckoning the rest of us to join along.”

Tutunjian also attributes her success to her late dad, Ralph, and nothing appeared more difficult than to sing at the funerals of her parents. A sister, Judy, and her family are regular fans.

Off stage and away from the recording studio, one can find Tutunjian involved with gardening, particularly hybrid tea roses, biking, golf, cooking,  hiking and cross-country skiing. She also teaches two Bible Study sessions. One group has been with her 14 years.

As to the future, only God knows. Tutunjian will keep going until she drops. There’s no business like show business and she approaches every day with a fresh challenge.

“It’s all in God’s timing,” she said.

Check out her website at www.ntbmusic.net.

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: